Partha Susarla

Partha Susarla

Partha Susarla, Australia

Kylie – Is an Environmental manager with more than 20 years experience.
Partha Susarla is a strategic planning manager with more than 25 years of experience.
Both are working at Unitywater for the last 7 years.

Presentation Title: Maroochy River Wetland restoration: an affordable green infrastructure solution with benefits for environment, and habitat

The Maroochy River is one of several high-profile rivers situated in Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. It has significant environmental, recreational, cultural and economic values; but it is under pressure from a wide range of pollutant sources. Historically, these pressures were associated with the expansion of intensive crop production areas, particularly in lower lying areas but are increasingly associated with urban development and a growing population. As a proactive initiative Unitywater commissioned this study to investigate the effectiveness of an innovative nutrient trading project that would use disused cane land on an ex wetland site near Yandina to reduce total nutrient levels in the river and offset effluent loads from a regional sewage treatment plant, with a view to enhancing the overall ecosystem health of the river. In 2015 Unitywater undertook extensive site investigations including vegetation recovery analysis modelling the tidal inundation of the wetlands estimated nitrogen retention to be over 5 tonnes per year. Benefits from the wetlands found to be environmentally equivalent to treatment plant upgrades. It also presented a way of offsetting the impact on biodiversity of construction of new Unitywater infrastructure and could be marketed to third parties for environmental offsets for non-regulated revenue benefits. These two aspects presented a sound commercial business case. It was recognised that restoring a wetland environment would result in a greater biodiversity of native plants and animals in the region benefits the broader community in terms of recreational opportunities like establishment of walking trails and bird watching spots. Unitywater purchased the land in late 2016 and is now embarking on the journey of managing the site and realising the multiple benefits. It is expected that the learnings from this project will help other water utilities, regulators and natural area managers of the potential opportunities and multiple benefits of restoring wetlands.

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